FORT WAYNE, Ind. – Having lost in regulation on Friday night in Brampton, the Wheeling Nailers knew their season was done after their game Saturday night in Fort Wayne. The Nailers looked to finish the season on high note in front of a large contingent of Nailers’ faithful who made the trip to the Allen County War Memorial Coliseum for the contest.
After a huge hit thrown by Daniel Maggio on Nailers defenseman Danny Fick, Matt Abt stepped up to defend him and drops the gloves with Maggio. A good bout ensued with no clear winner. Abt was given an extra two for roughing on the play giving the Komets a powerplay. Fick also assessed a 10-minute misconduct penalty on the play.
On the powerplay, Lowney passed it into the slot to Gabriel Desjardins, who snapped a shot past Adam Morrison to give the hosts a 1-0 lead at 3:34 of the first period.
The Nailers would answer, Cody Sol and Reid Gardiner fought for the puck with Gardiner winning the battle. Gardiner fired a shot from the right faceoff dot that beat Garrett Bartus high and pulled the game even.
The visitors were not done in the first, as Freddie Tiffels fired a shot passed Bartus. Tiffels came in on the right side and fired it top shelf over Bartus’ glove. Tiffels 16th of the season gave Wheeling a 2-1 lead.
Just under five minutes into the second period, Fort Wayne pulled even as Dennis Kravchenko fired a puck through the five-hole and into the net at 4:57 of the middle frame.
The tie would only last eight seconds, though. Wheeling won the faceoff and Abt would fire a pass ahead to Nick Sorkin, who laced the puck up over Bartus’ shoulder to give the Nailers a 3-2 lead at 5:05 of the middle frame.
Almost four minutes later, the Komets tied the game once again. Anthony Petruzzelli came down the slot and fired the shot into Morrison. Morrison thought the puck was under him but it was sitting just below his leg pad, and Petruzzelli pushed the puck across the goal line into the net and once again the game was tied at 9:01.
At the end of the second period, Kravchenko had words with Wheeling goaltender Morrison and ended up pulling Morrison’s mask off earning himself a roughing minor. As always happens when a goaltender is roughed all the players in the ice gathered around. Sol would also get a minor for unsportsmanlike conduct, giving Wheeling a two-man advantage to start the third period. Just over a minute into the third Wheeling cashed in. Kevin Schulze passed the puck from the point to the left faceoff circle where Gardiner fired the puck. A Komets defender deflected the puck through Bartus, and Brown swiped the puck from behind Bartus for a powerplay goal and a 4-3 Wheeling lead.
The Nailers were far from finished in this one, however. With an extra attacker on for a delayed penalty, Brown would pass the puck ahead to Louick Marcotte and while being harassed by a Komets defender, he flipped a one-handed backhander past Bartus to extend the Nailers lead to 5-3.
In the middle of the third, some great puck-handling by Sorkin allowed him to pass the puck into the left faceoff circle where Riley Bourbonnais one-timed the puck into the net and extended the Wheeling lead to 6-3.
Wheeling put the final exclamation point on the season with a partial break by Troy Josephs. Sorkin passed the puck through the neutral zone and to Josephs who came streaking in down the left side. He got past the defense and skated into the middle and snapped the puck high and to the glove side of Bartus to give Wheeling a 7-3 lead at 12:22 of the third.
On the night the Nailers were 1-for-4 on the power-play, while the Komets went 1-for-2. Morrison picked up the win, stopping 31 of 34 shots against and improved his record 18-14-2-0 for the season. Bartus stopped 28 of 35 in the loss, falling to 17-6-0-1.
Wheeling has completed their finishing the season with a 35-28-8-1 record. The Nailers have now failed to qualify for the postseason in consecutive years.
Fort Wayne will play their final regular season game today as the Cincinnati Cyclones blow into the Allen County War Memorial Coliseum for a 5:00 pm faceoff in the final regular season game in the 2017-18 ECHL regular season.